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Botanical Name: Rhus radicans
Species: T. radicans
Synonyms: R. toxicodendron. non L., Toxicodendron radicans. (L.)Kuntze. T. vulgare.
Common Names:Poison Ivy,Eastern poison ivy
Habitat : Rhus radicans is native to Eastern N. America – Quebec to Florida, west to Texas. It grows in woods, on rocky slopes and in wooded swamps.
Rhus radicans is a deciduous Climber growing to 2.5 m (8ft 2in) at a fast rate. The species has complex and variable forms. Some are woody vines that produce aerial roots and grow by straggling and climbing over other vegetation. Ground-forms usually spread by rhizomes and develop dense colonies with a few leaves crowded near the summit. Regardless of growth habit, poison ivy always has three leaflets per leaf, with leaflets: ovate to subrotund, varying to rhombic or elliptic, terminally acute to acuminate, basally cuneate; entire to irregularly serrate or crenate; glabrous or thinly pubescent, petiolule of the terminal leaflet longer than those of the lateral leaflets; panicles: axillary, 1 dm long, bearing greenish-yellow flowers that mature into grayish white fruits, 5-6 mm; fruits: mature August through November, conspicuous all winter; birds eat the ripe seeds with impunity.
It is not frost tender. It is in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen from Sep to November. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required) and are pollinated by Bees.The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.
Succeeds in a well-drained fertile soil in full sun. The young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. A fast-growing but short-lived species in the wild. It has brittle branches and these can be broken off in strong winds. Plants are also susceptible to coral spot fungus. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus. The plant has a semi-climbing habit and produces aerial roots, and occasionally reaches the size of a small tree. Many of the species in this genus, including this one, are highly toxic and can also cause severe irritation to the skin of some people, whilst other species are not poisonous. It is relatively simple to distinguish which is which, the poisonous species have axillary panicles and smooth fruits whilst non-poisonous species have compound terminal panicles and fruits covered with acid crimson hairs. The toxic species are sometimes separated into their own genus, Toxicodendron, by some botanists. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
Seed – best sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Pre-soak the seed for 24 hours in hot water (starting at a temperature of 80 – 90c and allowing it to cool) prior to sowing in order to leach out any germination inhibitors. The stored seed also needs hot water treatment and can be sown in early spring in a cold frame. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 10cm with a heel, July/August in a frame. Root cuttings 4cm long taken in December and potted up vertically in a greenhouse. Good percentage. Suckers in late autumn to winter
Edible Uses: Oil
Poison ivy has occasionally been used medicinally, though it is an extremely poisonous plant and great caution should be exercised. Any herbal use should only be undertaken under the supervision of a qualified practitioner. See also the notes above on toxicity. This plant has been used in the past by physicians in the treatment of paralysis and liver disorders. A decoction of the leaves has been used as a tonic and rejuvenator. The whole or the broken leaves have been rubbed over the skin to treat boils and skin eruptions. The leaves have been rubbed on skin that has been affected by a poison ivy reaction.
The leaves are rich in tannin. They can be collected as they fall in the autumn and used as a brown dye or as a mordant. An oil is extracted from the seeds. It attains a tallow-like consistency on standing and is used to make candles. These burn brilliantly, though they emit a pungent smoke. An excellent marking ink is obtained from this plant.
Known Hazards: This plant contains toxic substances and skin contact with it can cause severe irritation to some people. The sap is extremely poisonous. The sap contains 3-N pentadecycatechnol. Many people are exceedingly sensitive to this, it causes a severe spreading dermatitis. The toxins only reach the skin if the plant tissues have been damaged, but even indirect contact can cause severe problems.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.